IPCRI

מרכז ישראל/פלסטין למחקר ולמידע

مركز إسرائيل فلسطين للأبحاث و المعلومات

Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information

 

Undo the Magic of the Qassams

Kobi Michael and Gershon Baskin*

 

Monday, January 17, 2005

 

It seems that the proverbial gun displayed in the first act goes off in the last act. However, in this case the Qassam rockets were displayed up front prior to the writing of the play. It seems that the playwrights hoped that they could ignore the Qassams, wish them away, so that the spectators wouldn’t catch sight of them when the curtain went up on the first night. But wishful thinking is not necessarily the best recipe for real-life games as the Qassams mock the playwrights, and the actors. While the spectators' eyes are glued on the stage the curtain threatens to come down on stage even before the first act.

 

This theatrical metaphor is not just being clever at hindsight. It is a painful expression of again a potentially yet missed opportunity by Israelis and Palestinians, who wish to mold a different reality by those who believe in the possibility of a different reality and who are acting to bring about such a reality. Yet international community, with such conscious apathy and indifference prefers to be a standby observer in the hope that the contending parties will find their own way to coordination and cooperation.

 

A few months ago we coined the phrase "The Magic of the Qassams". We assessed the destructive potential of the frustrating "Catch 22" that it leads us to.

We assumed that certain Palestinian elements resent the possibility of Israeli-Palestinian understandings and agreements and the possibility that the disengagement initiative would turn into a coordinated move with a leverage potential for renewing the political process. Therefore they would endeavor to utilize to the fullest their spoiler abilities and thus challenge the military superiority of Israel by demonstrating the feebleness (in the sense of irrelevancy) of that force. In other words, by increasing the frequency of the use of the Qassam rockets Israel could be provoked into taking extreme military reaction and into escalation that will eradicate all potential for any positive change. Simultaneously, the Israeli demonstration of its strength puts a very high price tag vis-à-vis the elected President of the Palestinian Authority, to be used as blackmail in order to preserve the political strength of the spoilers (the Palestinian opposition armed groups) in the Palestinian arena. There is a definite attempt to create a "double balance of fear" vis-à-vis both Israel and Palestinian leadership.

 

This double balance of fear presents Israel and the PA with a common threat that cannot be neutralized without joining efforts. We have surmised in the past that Israel alone would not be able to suppress this threat and we recommended to place the responsibility on the Palestinian security apparatuses. As we were aware of the Palestinian limited abilities to perform and the amount of time required to regain Palestinian control of the area, we recommended a swift renewal of the essential and effective security coordination with the Palestinians (differing from superficial and technical coordination that is routinely practiced), while rationally learning the lessons of the past and with the active participation of a third party accepted by both sides.

 

Palestinian responsibility demands Israeli and international responsibility, that cannot work together unless in predetermined parameters where all those involved can exercise and coordinate their own capabilities. The Palestinians must deploy their security forces swiftly and widely over the whole area of the launching range of the Qassam rockets particularly in the north of the Gaza Strip. Israel must let the Palestinian security forces deploy on the ground in full force and to their utmost operational capacity. The international community, through its authorized representatives and accepted by both sides as the "third party" should activate monitoring and compliance mechanisms that will ensure the effectiveness of the Palestinian actions and their determination. The authority of the international community and its effectiveness in performing its ascribed duties should be derived from its support to the PA. The PA has no life force and viability without the support of the international community which can predicate and condition its support on a proven Palestinian effort to undo the magic of the Qassam “Catch 22”.

 

The third party will be the one who decides whether the PA indeed acted efficiently, based on the criteria of 100% effort. "The international Judge" will pronounce the verdict on the Palestinian efforts and will predicate its support on the quality of the efforts and their effectiveness and thus it will be possible to break the cycle and to prevent the unnecessary escalation.

 

The Israeli and the Palestinian leaderships cannot allow the Palestinian opposition forces, who are backed by outside elements to the Israeli-Palestinian system, (Syria and Iran) to suppress the will of the majority within the two nations and disrupt the capacity to act of the two democratically chosen leaderships. The Palestinian leadership ought to raise its voice and shout out loud "madmen, stop with the Qassams" and if this shout will not rally wide public support that will disrupt the acts of the opposition forces, then they will have to act as Palestinians, in coordination with Israel (but never as its deed doer nor on behalf of Israel) and with the backing of the international community, against those Palestinians extremists and acting for the sake of national interest of the Palestinian people.

 

They must impose their ruling authority and their military might so that those who oppose them with violence will know that there is law and there is a law maker. Israel must show its strength through its restraint and to allow the Palestinians to do their job on the condition that the international community with the determined leadership of the United States will make sure that the Palestinians do what they are capable of doing.

 

* Dr. Kobi Michael is the Israeli Director of IPCRI’s Strategic Affairs Unit, Dr. Gershon Baskin is the Israeli Co-Director of IPCRI.  This piece was written and directed to the Government of Israel.